Focus on Leadership - December 2010

Interview by Kemp Harr

 

Before starting RD Weis, his highly successful commercial floorcovering contractor company, Randy Weis spent the first half of his career in the corporate world. For ten years, he focused on transportation and business logistics with Bristol Myers Squibb. He then moved up the ranks and held several leadership positions in the company’s Clairol division and then plastics manufacturing, real estate and human resources—spending a total of 19 years with the company. 

In 1990, Weis succumbed to the entrepreneurial itch and started his own company, which is based in Port Chester, New York and has now grown to six locations in the Northeast. Weis also serves as chairman of the board for Starnet Worldwide, the largest cooperative of commercial flooring contractors in the U.S. Weis attributes much of his success to the talented employees that he has on his team. 

Q. As the commercial market starts to recover in the Northeast, where are you seeing most of the business? 
A.
We’re finding most of the business is on the replacement/remodel side. Most new construction projects are still on hold. For the first time now in two years, we’re seeing a greater optimism with our clients. As a result we are seeing year-end discretionary spending similar to what we saw prior to this recession. For the last two years, there has been a trickle of business in the healthcare, education and government sectors—due in part to stimulus funding—but now finally we are seeing business warm up in the corporate office sector.

Many of the major companies know that the way their corporate facilities look is a direct reflection on their brand, so they have to keep their facilities up to date.

Q. Are the facility managers and end users still hiring design firms to specify and coordinate these projects?  
A.
Yes. Up the Northeast, these companies put a lot of emphasis on their image. Plus, facility managers are overworked and they need the resources a design firm brings to the equation.

Q. Do you think this “Great Recession” will leave a lasting mark on how commercial flooring is sold and installed or on what products are used?
A.
Contrary to what you may think, we are seeing a renewed focus on better grade products that have a longer life—more so than in any period in the last ten years. Some of this can be attributed to the influence of third party entities like Green Building’s LEED and Antron’s message. Carpet tile continues to take share from broadloom, and retailers who want a “wood look” have grasped luxury vinyl tile as the best way to get there—because it holds up to the traffic.

Q. RD Weis is in the product and installation business but you’re also in flooring maintenance. Tell me a little more about that end of your business.
A.
We continue to value the maintenance business as an annuitized business, which insulates us from a dependency on the cycle of construction. But it also allows us to bring new products to bear in the market. In the last five years, urethane coatings have come into the market to replace stripping and waxing, and through our maintenance business we are able to offer our clients that flooring enhancement.

Q. You have a small staff of business development people who go out and call on design firms. What benefit do you get from that?
A.
It gives us an extra edge in the process. We gain visibility of projects in the early stages and we are able to help the design firm see potential issues in the planning stages of a project. In the end, we think it helps us win more jobs when projects go to bid. With many of the smaller design firms, they are able to use our library as an extension of their own, giving them a view of a wider range of products.

Q. A few weeks ago, Starnet held its fall meeting in Vancouver, B.C. What are the key issues that the Starnet members are facing today?
A.
Access to credit is probably the biggest issue. Most of the members were successful in right-sizing their business during the downturn, but now that business is picking up, ramping back up requires capital. Fortunately, our vendor partners are working with us in certain areas, which is helpful. Balancing overhead to match the current level of business is always a challenge.

Margins are also a big issue. Many parts of the country are still seeing fewer projects and an increased number of bidders and that is almost always a recipe for reduced margins. We’re also having to spend time qualifying our customers. A few years ago, it was the other way around—they wanted to make sure we were solvent. We actually had a session at our meeting to help our members scrutinize the client’s ability to pay.

Q. What is the tone of the membership at your meeting?
A.
Our members know that we’ve bottomed out and are on the positive side of the curve. They are optimistic and confident about the prospect for future growth.

Q. What are your plans for 2011 as a group?
A.
We are working on ways to increase our marketshare with our preferred vendors. 

Copyright 2010 Floor Focus 



Other Archived Articles

Wholesale Prices Slid in February   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 13, 2015—Wholesale prices fell 0.5% in February, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unexpected drop represents the fourth consecutive down month, as measured by the Labor Department’s producer price index.

Interface's Claims New Microsfera Has Lowest Carbon Footprint Ever   Full Article
LaGrange, GA, March 13, 2015—Interface has unveiled its latest product, Microsfera, which the firm says has the smallest carbon footprint of any carpet tile in history.

Ecore Revamps Business Structure   Full Article
Lancaster, PA, March 13, 2015—Ecore is making changes to its business structure in conjunction with IHRSA 2015 by launching a new category of sports and fitness flooring called Ecore Athletic.

J+J Flooring Video Wins Gold in AVA Digital Awards   Full Article
Dalton, GA, March 13, 2015—J+J Flooring Group video was named gold winner in the corporate image category of the AVA Digital Awards.

Average Mortgage Rates Rising, Buoyed by Strong Jobs Report   Full Article
McLean, VA, March 13, 2015—Average fixed rate mortgage rates are moving higher amid a strong jobs report and bringing mortgage rates back to where they were at the start of 2015, according to the results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

Trade Sales & Manufacturer Shipments Edge Down in January   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 12, 2015—The combined value of distributive trade sales and manufacturers’ shipments for January was estimated at $1,302.5 billion, down 2.0% from December 2014 and down 0.3% from January 2014, says the Commerce Department.

Retail Trade Sales Down from Previous Month But Up YOY   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 12, 2015—Retail trade sales were down 0.6% (±0.5%) from January 2015 but up 1.0% (±0.9%) over 2014, says the Commerce Department.

LL's Free Air Quality Testing Won't Meet CARB Standards   Full Article
New York, NY, March 12, 2015—Lumber Liquidators will offer free indoor air quality testing for its consumers--conducted to workplace standards,-- but OSHA's thresholds for formaldehyde in the workplace are not as stringent as CARB's for the home.

Parterre's Vertu Resilient Plank Wins ADEX Recognition   Full Article
Wilmington, MA, March 12, 2015—Parterre’s Vertu Resilient Plank won two ADEX awards.

Consumer Survey Reveals Optimism about Housing Market   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 12, 2015—Consumer optimism toward the economy is growing and appears to be contributing to further improvement in overall housing sentiment, according to results from Fannie Mae's February 2015 National Housing Survey.

Millennials Account for Largest Share of Home Buyers, Says NAR   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 12, 2015—The millennial generation represented the largest share of recent buyers, according to the 2015 National Association of Realtors Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study.

Three Tarkett Rubber Textures Win ADEX Platinum   Full Article
Chagrin Falls, OH, March 12, 2015—Tarkett received the Platinum Award for Design Excellence (ADEX) for its new range of rubber textures: Brushed, Concrete and Leather.

Fuse Alliance Focuses on Digital Marketing to Raise Awareness   Full Article
Laguna Niguel, CA, March 12, 2015—Fuse Alliance, a member-owned organization of professional, commercial flooring contractors, unveiled a next generation public facing website that clarifies the group's target audience and services offered.

U.S. Container Imports Down Over 5% in 2015   Full Article
Minneapolis, MN, March 12, 2015—Total U.S. container imports are down over 5% this year, compared to January and February of 2014, reports Zepol. Nearly the entire decline in imports is attributed to the West Coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Armstrong Top Execs Offered Retention Award to Stay Through Spinoff   Full Article
Lancaster, PA, March 11, 2015—Armstrong World Industries is giving three of its top executives an incentive to stay at the company through the spinoff of its flooring business into a new, independent company next year, reports Lancaster Online.

Small Business Optimism Edges Upward   Full Article
New York, NY, March 11, 2015—U.S. small business optimism edged up in February amid signs of tightening labor market conditions, bolstering the view that a recent slowdown in economic activity will be temporary, reports Reuters.

LL Class Action Lawsuits Extend Beyond Formaldehyde Issue   Full Article
Toana, VA, March 11, 2015—Lumber Liquidators is currently facing at least 12 class action lawsuits.

Foreclosure Inventory Fell 33.2% Year Over Year   Full Article
Irvine, CA, March 11, 2015—CoreLogic's January 2015 National Foreclosure Report reveals U.S. foreclosure inventory declined 33.2% from January 2014, and completed foreclosures declined 22.5%, reports World Property Journal.

The Floor Store Earns Sixth Armstrong Elite Retailer Recognition   Full Article
Lancaster, PA, March 10, 2015—The Floor Store’s new San Francisco, California showroom has been named an Elite Retailer by Armstrong, the chain’s sixth location to earn the distinction.

Wholesale Inventories Up Slightly   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 10, 2015—Wholesale inventories were up 0.3% to $548.7 at the end of January, says the U.S. Census Bureau.